Shadow Dances: British Works for Flute

Adam Walker, Huw Watkins

Shadow Dances: British Works for Flute
Compact disc
Chandos Records
5 May 2023

Shadow Dances: British Works for Flute

Adam Walker, Huw Watkins

For his second album for Chandos, the flute virtuoso Adam Walker explores the music of British composers with pianist Huw Watkins.

Vaughan Williams’s Suite de ballet was commissioned by the French flute virtuoso Louis Fleury (who had given the première of Debussy’s Syrinx). The work uses eighteenth-century French dance forms, a common practice in ‘neo-classical’ composition. Bax’s Four Pieces rescue music from an abandoned ballet originally conceived for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes.

Sir Lennox Berkeley’s Sonatina was originally written for treble recorder; James Galway’s championship of the piece made it a staple of the flute repertoire. Howard Fergusson’s Three Sketches were composed intermittently over a period of twenty years. The theme of the third piece is a Hindu melody, ‘Koyaliňya bole ambuvaň’ (Cuckoos sing in the mango tree). Sonatas by York Bowen and William Alwyn complete this varied and engaging programme.


Adam Walker, previously principal flute of the London Symphony Orchestra and now professor at both the Royal College of Music in London and at the Bern Academy of the Arts, returns to the world stage with his latest release, Shadow Dances. Showcasing works for flute and piano by British composers, he joins with friend and composer Huw Watkins on piano. If you’re a Musica Viva regular, then you might have seen him on his recent tour of Australia. Performing with harp and viola, that tour showcased his love of chamber music, and you can hear it in this latest release from Chandos.

Watkins and Walker are equal partners in each of the works featuring composers Bowen, Berkeley, Vaughan Williams and Bax. In my previous life as a flute teacher, I used a number of these works as teaching tools to help students develop musical lines across tonal but off-centred melodies. The sweet Suite de Ballet by Ralph Vaughan Williams, in particular, used to confuse my students with its gentle simplicity, and yet Walker trips delightfully through each movement with the confidence of a musician in his prime. This album is full of lilting melodies and chewy harmonies – perfect for a Sunday afternoon.

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